A new two-part Naruto and Sasuke fic for your enjoyment.

disclaimer: i dont own Naruto. The characters are not my fictional playthings that I can do whatever I want with them. It'd be nice if they were, though.

Also posted on my livejournal account: a_dying_saturn.

The thin, pink-haired woman crept quietly down the hallway of her small home. She held the glass of water in her hands and attempted to creep past her daughter's little room without waking her. The water sloshed slightly over the lip of the glass as the woman hopped over a discarded building block a few feet from her daughter's room. She tip-toed silently over to the door, and opened it just enough to peek in. It was something she hadn't done since her little Sakura was a tiny baby, but sometimes she woke up in the middle of the night with an almost unquenchable urge to check to see if her little angel was still breathing. When her own mother had mentioned doing the same thing to her when she was younger, the pink haired woman only laughed. Now she understood; it was just a mother's impulse.

Her eyes adjusted to the dark and she smiled softly at the small bump on her daughter's bed. She tried to creep away silently on her way back to her own bedroom, then heard the rustling of her daughter's blankets.

"Mama?" Sakura whispered softly.

The woman pushed the door open wider and walked into her daughter's room. She set her glass down on Sakura's bedside table and gently sat herself on the edge of her bed. It was past One in the morning, and she was nearly on the verge of falling asleep once more. Hadn't it been ages since Sakura would wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares?

"Big girls are supposed to stay asleep until morning," She said as she maneuvered herself to sit next to her daughter on the bed and moved the blankets to cover her legs.

"Yeah," said the little girl, "but I had a bad dream." She shuddered and pulled her blanket up to her neck in fear.

""Whatever it was," the tired mother told her daughter as she wrapped her arms around the shaking child, "it wasn't real. Go back to sleep, little cherry blossom."

"I know," she squeaked. "Tell me a story?"

The woman sighed and took a swig of the water on the bedside table.

"Ok," she said. "One story, then back to sleep. You don't want to be tired for when Grandma comes over tomorrow, do you?"

The little girl shook her head, and then snuggled up close to her mother.

"Once, a long time ago before you and I and even Grandma were born, the land was populated with Kitsune, fox people. These fox people were horrible tricksters, and they lead people astray on their travels." The woman said.

"But fox people are not all bad," she continued. "There was once a young man who wandered all over the land looking for a place to build a home for his sick father. He settled near a village in the woods, but since he was poor, he lived near the trees on the outskirts of the village. He got a job chopping firewood for the village people. The people also entrusted him with the responsibility of telling the village Samurai if any enemies or dangerous animals ever got out of the forest. He was so reliable in his work and his warnings protected the lives of many villagers, and the village people gave him a home for his sick father closer to the center of the village. He gave this home to his father, but he preferred to live out near the woods, for he was a simple man."

"One day while the man was chopping wood, a beautiful young woman walked up to him from the forest path. She needed a place to stay before the sun set, she explained. However, robbers had taken all her money so she could not afford a night at the village's small inn. The man generously offered to have the woman stay in his own home. The woman thanked him, and he helped her bring in her pack and bundle, so that she might spend the night."

"During the night, the robbers came up to the man's house. They had followed the woman there and had plans to kill her, for the money they had stolen off of her was not enough to pay for their gambling debts. The man lied to the robbers and told them the woman was not there. He had only given her money, he explained. She was in the village inn. As the robbers left on the path to the village, the man ran on a back path to the village's Samurai to alert them to the presence of the robbers in the village. The next morning the robbers were executed, and in gratitude the woman fell in love with the handsome young man. She married him on a beautiful sunny day, but little raindrops splashed from the sky like teardrops of happiness from heaven."

The little girl smiled. "Did it really rain while it was sunshiny out, mama?" she asked.

"Yes," she said. "When fox people get married, their magic makes it rain even when the sun is high in the sky. It is called a sun shower," she said.

"The man and his bride had a very happy marriage. They soon had several cute children just like you, and she would take care of them while her husband chopped wood during the day. But at night, the woman would walk outside and into the woods. 'You must never follow me,' she said to her husband, 'I love you and shall stay with you forever, but you cannot break my one and only condition.' One night, however, the man's curiosity got the better of him. After his children had fallen asleep and his wife had gone, he followed her out into the woods to a small clearing in the trees. He stood in shock as he watched his wife transform into a fox before his very eyes! Several more foxes walked into the clearing after his wife, calling each other brother and sister. 'What is this?' one of them asked. 'Someone has been followed, for I smell not a fox but a human!' The man's wife turned human once more and turned to face her husband. 'How could you break my rule?' she cried. 'You have seen my true state! You must go at once! Leave me!' as soon as she had finished, he was chased back to his home by foxes. When morning came, he woke up to find himself alone, without even his children."

"Did the man's wife come back, mama?" Sakura asked.

The woman rumpled up her daughter's hair. "No honey," she said soothingly. "When a human sees a fox person in their true state, the fox must leave the human forever and raise their children away from humans. It is their law."

"That's a sad story," The girl cried.

Her mother grinned. "But it's all right," she said. "After all, it's just a story."

. . .

Sakura, age 12, sat in the Academy classroom for what she hoped would be the last time. She had passed her ninja graduation exam with flying colors, and was now waiting only for her team assignment. She blushed and smiled. This year was the year she would finally make Sasuke Uchiha hers. She scooted closer to him on the bench. Once he was her boyfriend, the two of them would go out and kiss right in front of the Yamanaka compound. That'll show that stupid, self-righteous Ino-pig! She thought to herself.

She turned to her left and looked shyly at the dark and brooding boy. Sure, he seemed aloof and cold, but that only made him totally cool. He was the cutest and most talented boy in all of Konoha! What kind of girl wouldn't fall head over heels for him? Sakura even had the names of their future kids picked out; Daisuke and Haruna. It was too perfect!

Or at least it was perfect until Naruto Uzumaki sat down on her right.

"Hiya, Sakura!" He said, his scarred cheeks turning slightly pink.

"Naruto," she grouched. "Go away! Can't you see I'm busy?" She blushed and turned to her left once more.

Naruto's eyes narrowed. He walked past her on the bench and kneeled on the table right in front of Sasuke.

"What's this guy got that that I don't got?" He asked.

The kid in front of them turned around to answer Naruto's rhetorical question. In the process, his arm bumped into Naruto, causing him to fall foreword…right into Sasuke's face!

It was horrible! Sakura could only watch angrily as Naruto's lips crashed into Sasuke's for what seemed like hours. She could almost swear she saw Naruto's tongue dart in and out of Sasuke's mouth in the blink of an eye. A second later, she watched as Naruto and Sasuke broke apart, grabbing their throats and spitting in disgust.

"Gross!" Naruto screamed, running back to sit on Sakura's right again.

"What the hell did you do that for?" Sasuke yelled.

Sakura didn't remember what happened after that. She was blind from shock. She didn't snap out of it until Naruto shook her arm and said, "Wake up, Sakura! You, me, and that asshole are on the same team. We're supposed to wait here for our Sensei to show up."

Sakura groaned and rubbed her hand on her forehead. Dear Lord, she thought. Could her life get any worse?

. . .

"You'll never be great ninja if you all don't learn to work together as a team." The voice of Sakura's silver-haired new Sensei said.

"Sakura!" He yelled suddenly, grabbing Sasuke and pinning him to the ground while pointing a kunai at the back of his neck. "Kill Naruto or I'll stab Sasuke."

Sakura gasped and stared at her team leader in shock. Sure, she thought Naruto was annoying and stupid, but she couldn't just kill him. She lowered her head and bit her lip. They had tried to grab Kakashi's bells separately, but she already knew one thing that kept her from obeying Kakashi's command: Naruto was her teammate, and she would never, ever kill him, no matter what. But Sasuke was her teammate, too. She had to protect him as well. No way would she let him die!

"There could be situations in the future where you may be forced to make that choice. A great team will pull through it. That's the most important thing for a ninja to do. It isn't being successful and it isn't completing the mission. It's protecting your team no matter what."

Kakashi's words sunk into Sakura, and she took them to heat. Yes, she thought. I'll always protect my team. Even Naruto doesn't deserve to get hurt or taken advantage of.

"Well," Kakashi said after his lecture had finished. "I guess we're all done for today. We'll meet here this time tomorrow before Sandaime Hokage gives us our first mission."

Sakura turned to follow Kakashi back to the village.

"Hey, wait, guys!" Naruto yelled. "You're not just gonna leave me tied up here, are you?"

Sakura turned back to the road and giggled. Naruto had failed the test and was tied up to the stump. It was funny that Kakashi wouldn't let him come down. She turned to Sasuke to see his reaction. He smirked and walked on ahead, as always. But she noticed how he turned back to look at Naruto once he thought no one could see him. Was that a hint of worry she saw in Sasuke's face?

. . .

"Naruto!" Sakura called out as she walked deeper into the forest that led to the training grounds.

"Naruto, you forgot to get paid for our last mission! Come out here and take your share of the money."

Sakura heard the sound of a pebble being kicked away and looked up to see Naruto sans obnoxious orange jacket. He looked much better without it. It made him look shorter and pudgier than he really was. Why couldn't he see that for himself?

"Naruto," Sakura began slowly. "Where's your Jacket?"

She turned to face Sasuke, who walked out from between two trees just off of the path.

"And you," she said. "Where'd your arm bands go?" She glanced at Sasuke's bare forearms crossed over his chest.

Sasuke grunted and walked back to the village. "I took them off," he replied. "They were cumbersome."

Naruto's eyebrows shot up in surprise.

"My jacket!" he yelled as he ran back to the village and checking every last branch, bush, and tree for his discarded jacket.

Sakura looked at the wad of bills in her left hand. Naruto had left without even taking his share of the mission fee. She shook her head and decided to keep it for herself. She needed money for a new haircut anyway.

On her way to the training grounds, she saw a small fleck or orange tucked behind a bush on the right side of the road. She walked over and carefully, with thumb and index finger, picked up Naruto's jacket. It was wrinkled and had grass stains at the elbows. She looked back at the ground and her eyes widened. Hidden underneath Naruto's yucky jacket were Sasuke's discarded arm bands. They were caked in dirt and leaves. What was with this mess? It was almost like Naruto and Sasuke had messed up their clothes rolling around on the ground together.

Sakura snapped out of her trance and wiped a handkerchief at her bloody nose and pushed the image aside. I have better things to do than fantasize, she thought to herself.

. . .

Sakura decided one day to spend her free afternoon in a sunny meadow that lay just outside of Konoha's great forest. She adjusted her headband in the mirror and smiled at herself. Almost three years had gone by since the incident in the forest, and Sakura had grown taller and more mature since then.

Naruto and Sasuke had grown up, too. Both boys had gotten taller, and Naruto managed to lose all his baby fat. He no longer looked ridiculous in orange.

Sakura stopped by a street vendor on her way to the village gates. The main street was bustling and busy, and Sakura realized that with the street traffic this bad, she'd never get home in time for dinner. She decided to turn her outing into a solo picnic and purchased a bento from the cart nearest to her.

"Keep the change," she told the middle aged man managing the bento cart.

Sakura smiled and walked with a little bounce in her step as she made her way to the pretty meadow. She yawned and stretched and walked slowly at a leisurely pace for once. It was nice to go somewhere without rushing. She rested her hand on a tree at the edge of the forest where the meadow began. She spread her red blanket out onto the ground just underneath the tree and leaned back with her hands clasped behind her head. She closed her eyes and listened to the sound of a small breeze rushing through the leaves. Sakura breathed deeply and decided to nap and catch up on absorbing some vitamin D.

She heard a noise on the other side of the meadow. Her eyes snapped open and she sat up on her rumpled blanket. Squinting at the other end of the meadow, she could vaguely make out two shapes. Sakura hopped to the top branches of a nearby tree, praying that it wasn't Enemy Nin planning an ambush. It was her free day and it was the last thing she needed. She jumped silently from tree to tree, finally stopping after getting a clear view of what she had seen.

Sasuke, the top of his robe opened and pushed down off his shoulders and Naruto attacking the exposed flesh with his mouth. Sasuke's back was pushed harshly against the rough bark of a large tree and Naruto grasped at his wrists and pinned him down, making sure the attractive boy under him couldn't move. Naruto's tongue traced up Sasuke's neck and Sakura heard him gasp and then moan as Naruto got up to his chin, and then bit down at the base of his neck.

"What's up with you and biting lately?' Sasuke asked between gasps.

"What?" Naruto replied. "You don't like it?"

Sasuke smirked.

"It isn't that," he said smugly. "It's just new."

Naruto stepped closer to the Uchiha, pressing their bodies tightly together.

"Shut up," he grunted before starting up again.

Sakura sat there stunned for a moment, then raced back to her side of the meadow as fast as possible. She wasn't as shocked as she thought she'd be. She had her suspicions, of course. She didn't know a single girl her age that didn't. But knowing something in the back of your mind and actually seeing it firsthand are two different things. Not that she minded seeing it at all.

Sakura brought an image of the blond fox-boy up into her mind as she bent over to pick up and fold her red blanket before returning home. She remembered a story her mother had told her once when she was little and couldn't sleep about a fox person who married a handsome young man, and at their wedding, they were blessed with a Sun Shower from fox magic. Sakura wondered what fox magic could do when a fox fell in love.

. . .

Later that evening, Sakura decided that enough was enough and that she needed to talk to Naruto about what she'd seen. It didn't seem fair to her to watch what he and Sasuke had done and then withhold the fact that she'd been there to witness it. She decided to break the news to him gently and then offer him a present to keep him from getting pissed about it. She knew exactly what to bring him.

"We added extra egg and pork for him," Ayame said after handing Sakura the take-out bowl. She'd plastic wrapped it shut and placed it in a box and tied it closed with a long ribbon. Sakura held the box of fresh, hot ramen by the bow on top and walked off to Naruto's apartment.

She knocked on the door quickly three times. Naruto answered the door only a few seconds later. Despite Naruto's many other shortcomings, he was very polite and friendly to guests.

"Hey, Sakura. What brings you-" He glanced down at the box releasing the smell of his favorite food in her hand. He grinned and took the box from her, motioning for her to sit across from him at his small table while he ate.

"Actually there's something I wanted to discuss with you," she said.

"About what?" Naruto said as he separated a set of disposable wooden chopsticks.

"About the fact that I watched you give Sasuke a hickey this afternoon in the meadow."

Naruto spit out the large mouthful of ramen he'd stuffed in.

"You trespassed on our special place?" He asked loudly.

"It's public property. I can go there if I want. I was actually trying to have a very nice nap and picnic there until I mistook you and Sasuke for Enemy Nin."

Naruto pressed his lips tightly together.

"Are you mad?" he whispered.

Sakura sat there silently, and then shook her head no.

"No, not really. I kind of figured a while ago. This was just the first time I saw you two in action. I do have to ask, though," she added. "Do you love him?"

Naruto stared at his bowl. "I do. The only thing that bugs me and makes me second guess myself was that I never once heard him say it back. I used to think that it was because of his emotional problems, but now I think he might just be frightened to."

Sakura smiled at her blond teammate.

"Want me to help you?" She asked. "I'll ask him and he can tell me if he's so scared to. You can hide while I do it and listen."

Naruto grinned and jumped up from his seat, grabbing Sakura's arm and pulling her out the door.

"Let's go!" he shouted. "Let's go right now!"

. . .

Sakura stood across from Sasuke Uchiha on the deserted alleyway at night.

"Well, do you?' she asked.

"Let me get this straight," he replied. "You accidentally caught Naruto and me fooling around out in the meadow, and you figure it's your business to ask if I love him?"

"You make it sound like I'm meddling. I'm just asking because I want what's best for Naruto. Now give me a straight answer. Do you love him?"

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her.

"What I do with Naruto is not something I do because I love him or even like him," He replied coldly. "Think of it like scratching an itch. The urge pops up, you take care of it, and it's gone."

Sakura's eyes widened. Sasuke had been so warm and receptive in the meadow. How could he become so cruel in the space of only a few hours?

"Now if you're done asking stupid questions, I'd like to go home. We should both go home." He rested his hand on her shoulder and gently pushed her out of his way before walking home. Sakura reached up to her shoulder and quickly brushed it off.

Sakura walked slowly and nervously over to the edge of the alleyway, and ducked behind an old cardboard box where Naruto was hiding. It was dark, but even in the soft moonlight Sakura could see tears running down her friend's face.

Sakura wrapped her arms protectively around Naruto and hugged him as hard as she could. She remembered the end of her mother's tale, and how it had made her cry for days when she imagined the fox woman separated from her lover forever. She would not let Naruto's story end up the same way, she vowed. Sakura would get Sasuke to admit his true feeling to Naruto if it was the last thing she did. She wanted her friend to be happy, and Naruto deserved to have his own Sun shower someday, too.